Accommodation of Casualty Pigeons & Doves (Wildlife Casualty Management)

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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / UK Wildlife Casualty Management/ Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B.  This information should be read in association with Wildlife Casualty Accommodation which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" Wildpro module, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Columba livia - Rock pigeon, Columba oenas - Stock pigeon, Columba palumbus - Common wood-pigeon, Streptopelia turtur - European turtle-dove, Streptopelia decaocto - Eurasian collared-dove.

These species are from the family Columbidae.

Transport Containers:

  • Cardboard boxes are suitable.
  • Plastic and wooden boxes may also be used.
  • Boxes should be lined with newspaper; a towel or piece of carpeting should be placed on top of the paper if available to provide grip.
  • Wire cages are not suitable. They tend to cause stress and also risk severe feather damage.
  • The container should be sufficiently large to hold the bird comfortably but should preferably be small enough to prevent it flapping around.
  • Ensure ventilation is adequate: if unsure, make small air holes low down on the sides of the box, not at the eye level of the bird being transported.
  • A cloth drawstring bag, hung up, may be used for short journeys.

(B118.18.w18, B151, B169.43.w43, B225, D24, D26, V.w5).

Short-term (Emergency) Accommodation:

  • May be kept in a suitable-sized cardboard box such as a cat-carrying box
  • Newspaper may be used as a substrate but covering this with a kitchen towel is preferable.
  • Ventilation should be provided by holes placed such that the bird cannot look out.
  • Provide a perch of an appropriate size.
  • Warmth may be provided by e.g. using a heating pad underneath the box or an infra red lamp above the box.
    • Take care to avoid overheating or burns


Medium Term / Hospitalisation Accommodation:

  • Any large bird cage.
  • Cages solid on all except one side are preferable.
  • If an all-wire cage must be used it is important to cover it on all except one side to provide security.
  • Extra cover on the open side using a light-coloured cloth which provides seclusion without blocking light (e.g. white tea towel or net curtain) may be needed for flighty or nervous birds.
  • Newspaper, kitchen towel or sand may be provided as a substrate.
  • At least one perch should be provided, e.g. branches about 1-2cm diameter.
  • Open bowls or food hoppers attached to the wire may be used.
  • N.B. woodpigeons (Columba palumbas - Common wood-pigeon) are very nervous and inclined to panic on seeing people. (B169.43.w43)
  • (B151B169.43.w43, B169.46.w46, B225, V.w26)

Longer-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation

  • Aviary accommodation should be provided prior to release to allow flight and reacclimatisation to the outdoors.
  • The length of the aviary should be sufficient to allow flight.
  • Standard aviaries with weldmesh or chicken wire may be used.
  • For Columba palumbas - Common wood-pigeon the use of flexible netting may be advisable to reduce the risk of self-inflicted injury from flying into the wire.
  • Part of the aviary should have a solid roof and sides to provide shelter and perching sufficient for all the occupants of the aviary should be available in this area.
  • For a solitary aviary a safety porch (double door) system should be used to minimise the risk of birds escaping. For a row of aviaries doors may open into a safety corridor.
  • Sand or gravel over a concrete base may be used for substrate; this may be particularly useful for rehabilitation aviaries as the substrate can be removed and replaced to prevent build up of parasites and other pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Ledges as well as perches should be provided
  • Grassed aviaries may also be used.
  • A shallow pool or bowl sufficiently large to allow the birds to bathe should be provided.
  • Privacy and seclusion should be provided within the aviary by plants such as bushes and small trees.
  • Plantings outside the aviary will provide further seclusion.
  • Mixed species of pigeons and doves may be housed together within the same aviary.
  • A minimum of 30cm perching space per pigeon should be provided.
  • N.B. woodpigeons (Columba palumbas - Common wood-pigeon) are very nervous and do not settle well in captivity (B169.43.w43)
  • (B151, B169.43.w43, B169.46.w46)
  • If an animal is maintained in long-term care accommodation for a substantial period of time, the animal must have some form of environmental enrichment to encourage natural behaviours (possibly through food presentation techniques, cage furniture that encourages activity, or play items that would be found in its native environment). This is to reduce the risk of boredom as the animal becomes accustomed to its enclosure and the possible development of behavioural problems. (V.w6)
Appropriate Use (?)
  • Short-term (Immediate / Emergency) Accommodation is designed to be used for a short period of time only, e.g. prior to examination, to allow basic first-aid to be carried out, while an animal requires intensive care, or while specialist accommodation is being prepared.
    • The most important requirements are warmth, quiet and dark or dim lighting.
  • Medium-term (Hospitalisation) Accommodation is designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation.
    • Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Long-term (Rehabilitation and Permanent) Accommodation facilities for wildlife are generally larger and more complex than accommodation designed only for temporary occupancy.
    • In general this type of accommodation is not suitable for animals which require daily treatment.
    • A period in rehabilitation accommodation may be particularly important when an animal has been hospitalised for some time.
    • Long-term accommodation may also be required for e.g.
      • Birds which have damaged their flight feathers and cannot be released until these have moulted back.
      • When time required for recovery would make the individual too late for migration.
  • In choosing or constructing accommodation it is important to consider the requirements for handling, provision of food and water, cleaning and disinfection (or disposal) of accommodation after use.
  • Accommodation should be checked daily for damage which might allow escape of the occupants or entry of predators
  • Disturbance, including visual and auditory stimulation, should be minimised.
  • Short-term and medium-term accommodation should be places high up rather than at ground level; birds which do not normally spend long periods of time on the ground are generally less stressed if placed high up.
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Wooden panels on aviaries may come loose in stormy weather. Building wooden panels over wire rather than instead of wire reduces the risk of escape of birds if panels are blown off
  • Care must be taken to ensure that any wood preservatives used are non-toxic by the time an enclosure is inhabited.
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
  • Wooden, bar-fronted bird cages.
  • Timber.
  • Weldmesh, chicken wire, nylon netting.
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • Most materials required for the construction of cages and aviaries may be obtained from standard fencing or farm-equipment stores.
Cost/ Availability
  • Bird cages for medium-term accommodation are available from many pet stores.
  • May be expensive, particularly for construction of longer term accommodation; the cost is generally proportional to the size of the accommodation and the strength and durability of construction materials used.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • Under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to keep any bird (excluding poultry) in "a cage or other receptacle which is not sufficient in height, length or breadth to permit the bird to stretch its wings freely", except for birds which are undergoing examination or treatment by a veterinary surgeon, during transportation and for limited time periods (aggregate not exceeding 72 hours) for birds being shown at a public exhibition or competition.
  • Accommodation for casualty wild animals should be designed to minimise the stress on the animal and to minimise the risk of injury to that animal.
  • A wild animal in captivity is protected under the same welfare legislation as domestic animals, e.g. Protection of Animals Acts 1911-2000; under this legislation it is an offence to treat a captive animal cruelly or to cause it unnecessary suffering.
    • This includes an obligation to provide proper attention and care.
    • The keeper has a duty to keep all wildlife casualties in a fit manner, in accommodation of a size which allows reasonable movement and with an environment suitable for its normal way of life.
    • (J35.147.w1, P19.2.w1, D27, D28)
  • Accommodation which does not fulfil the physiological and psychological requirements of the animal and results in an inadequate level of fitness at the time of release may seriously compromise the survival ability of that animal. Release of an animal which is unfit may be an offence under the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960 (J35.147.w1, W5.Jan01).
  • Risks to human health, both physical and risk of zoonotic illness must be minimised: Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974.
  • An offence may be committed under article 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if a species on Schedule 9 of that Act, or a species not ordinarily resident in the UK is allowed to escape from accommodation in which it is being housed.
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
Author Debra Bourne
Referee Becki Lawson and Suzanne Boardman

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